Jo's story

I became disabled in 1985.  I was thirteen years old and attending a Pony Club residential trip at Haydock Park Racecourse.  The accident happened on the first day of the weeklong event.   I was riding my pony, who was named Charles from the field when he was spooked by another pony coming towards us. Charles reared up and I fell off. All I can remember from that day is lying on the floor and my legs felt like they were stuck up in the air. As I recall my friend Lindsay jumped from her pony and stayed with me. I remember the ambulance arriving and then the rest is blurred. I was taken to Warrington Hospital and was transferred the next day to Southport Spinal Injuries Unit. My parents were informed that I had broken my spine and was paralysed and would never walk again. I spent the next 12 months at Southport Spinal Unit. 
As you can imagine it took a lot of time for me to grasp what had happened, however I was determined to do all I could, to try and not become too depressed, all of the staff at the spinal unit were fantastic and when I finally got home, I was ready to start living life again. My friends and family were amazing and very supportive and my attitude was that there is no point in moping about, nothing can change the situation and there are plenty of people worse off.  Get on with it! and I got one with it!  

As a paraplegic I turned to sport and became accomplished at wheelchair basketball, tennis, swimming, water-skiing, snow-skiing, hand-cycling and in 2013 sailing, this time as a disabled sailor. My Dad introduced me to sailing as he raced Merlin Rockets and I had a mirror dinghy.   To go sailing again, is not something I thought about very much until I moved to Devon in 2013. However then I discovered Dart Sailability! , an amazing organisation.  I am not sure there is any other way for people in wheelchairs (who are unable to walk) to access The River Dart. None of the ferries have ramps or the facilities for wheelchairs. The ferry guys have kindly offered to lift me on, but I would not be comfortable with that.

As a wheelchair user I do find it frustrating not being able the access the local beach. Not to be able to join in with my family at the beach, or to simply go for a walk along the shore.  However Dart Sailability does go some way to make up for this, as I am able to access the sea and the river from a sail boat and of course a power boat. Sailing on the River Dart and in the bay provides an amazing feeling of freedom. The volunteers do a wonderful job and have made me feel at home since day one. I can honestly say I don’t know what I would do without Dart Sailability ‘I love it’.

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